Old Naval Cemetery, Port Royal


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Our second unplanned stop on our recent Port Royal trip was the large and mostly abandoned Old Naval Cemetery on the outskirts of town.  Enclosed by a brick wall, the left-hand side of the cemetery is open scrub land.  Whatever graves may have been there are long gone.  On the right, there are rows of numbered crosses in various states of disrepair.  Alongside the simple crosses, more elaborate, older, stone graves are carved with the names of sailors from the late 1800s.  Many were victims of yellow fever and almost all are British naval personnel.   Everything leans a little to the left or right, or tilts forward or backwards, sitting awkwardly on the unstable sandy soil.

The history of the cemetery goes back to the 1600s but, yet again, the earthquake of 1692 sent a large part of history into the sea and famous graves such as that of the notorious pirate, Henry Morgan, are lost forever.

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A cactus echoes the shape of its neighbours

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Collapsing concrete and brick graves.  In the background, cement crosses are slowly crumbling away…

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…until they fall to the ground as twisted piles of rebar and chunks of concrete. No names were on any of the crosses, just numbers.

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The older carved stone headstones fared better, but many were cracked or fallen….

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…but they all told a story.  Many gravestones were of fever victims.

I learnt that recently  a 40-strong detail of sailors from HMS Lancaster helped restore the neglected graves of their forebears when their frigate visited Jamaica in 2013.  They cleaned up the overgrown graves, explaining how we could even walk into somewhere in such disrepair.  Whatever did it look like before they cleared it out? Its such a shame that so much history sits so neglected.

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